When Fire Arrives
It’s all wrong, today’s sun,
a welt in the fire-smoke sky.
Miles away and to the east, Paradise town is burning.
The perfect measure of heat + wind
to gut the white pines, the classroom windows,
to raze every armchair and saucer,
the light poles, the ball hoops, a pick-up’s bulk.
It’s all wrong, the way we’re asked
to sustain the worst. What I breathe burns,
the inside air, memory. Months and I still
snap out of sleep, sweat-flushed,
remembering my brother is dead,
stage IV spread through flesh, then bone,
then breath. All wrong, the ash
dusking my backyard leaves.
I see shapes in the smoke: a cow’s wild eye,
a woman screaming her sons awake.
Never in my wildest dreams was what
my brother said, astonished, as if he couldn’t
conceive of what came next.
A blowing away of have, of keep, of solid.
This far from Paradise,
I imagine the aftermath mapped across
their faces, mouths all gape and stun.
Indoors for days, the sky
without change, I want what they want:
to be allowed back, to stand,
even briefly, in the heart of what was.